Oil rises as concern heats up over Iran sanctions, Venezuelan output

Posted April 27, 2018

A top adviser to Iran's supreme leader said Tehran would not accept any change to the 2015 nuclear deal, as Western signatories prepare a new package in the hope of persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to stick with the accord.

Futures ended the session 0.2% higher, closing above $68 a barrel for a third time this week.

Venezuela's crude production PRODN-VE has fallen from nearly 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2016 to around 1.5 million bpd due to political and economic turmoil.

The geopolitical tension has prompted analysts to speculate that oil could easily exceed US$80 a barrel if President Trump refuses to sign the nuclear deal by May 12.

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In addition to fundamentals, there has been a shift in geopolitical sentiment after France's president Emmanuel Macron yesterday called for a new Iran deal to avoid the imposition of USA sanctions against Tehran that the latter warned will lead to serious consequences, without going into detail.

Venezuela's plunging output and looming USA sanctions against Iran come against a backdrop of strong demand, especially in Asia, the world's biggest oil consuming region.

The prospect of new sanctions on Iran threatens to further tighten supply in the oil market.

Dutch bank ING said "the wide discount for WTI to Brent saw exports rising 582,000 bpd week-on-week to a record high of 2.33 million bpd".

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The Energy Information Admninistration reported USA oil inventories were up 2.2 million barrels.

The effect of EIA's latest inventory report on oil prices would be interesting to watch; API's figures seemed to remind market players that not all fundamentals are bullish for oil, with USA oil production continuing to be the main headwind for OPEC's plans to push up prices higher. The authority added that in the same week crude oil inventories had increased by 2.2 million barrels, which went counter to analyst expectations of a draw or a much smaller build.

The soaring US output has made WTI crude around $6 per barrel cheaper than Brent, the worldwide benchmark for oil prices. The previous record-high was set the week ending March 30 at 2.175 million bpd.

"With rising production from United States shale still a key market theme that continues to weigh on oil prices, it will be interesting to see how much oil appreciates before bears enter the scene", he said.

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"The market does look a little toppish", said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.